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Words Words Words. . . Are More Than That

Yesterday I attended a women's circle meeting for the first time. (I've sat in more than a few women's circles over the years, of course. This was my first meeting with this group.)

The other members seemed to all be lovely people: present, committed, really striving, friendly, warm, and quirky. I felt very comfortable there, like I had found a previously unknown pocket of my tribe -- a rare occurrence. I'd had a phone conversation the night before with one of the leadership team, and had been delighted by the resonance between her use of language and my own.

But when the circle actually got underway, I struggled a lot.



The language, the references, the style of the circle were the kind of vaguely-goddess-y, we-are-connected-to-our-female-ancestors, oh-our-lovely-women's-bodies sweetness that I've never been able to relate to. Their group is centered around the Maiden-Mother-Crone model (to which I've never been able to relate), but the theme this year is the Guardian, which they "discovered" and are all excited about. (No one seems to be aware of 5-stage models that include the Warrior and Priestess.) There was acknowledgement given to the fact that these stages overlap and co-exist, but the overall cultural perspective of the group was that we start as maidens and move through the cycle as we age.

There was a handout providing an overview of the stages and associations, and I choked when I saw that they had associated Inanna and Ishtar with the Mother phase. One of the things I like about the group is the use of archetypes -- but I've reached a point in my spiritual life where I start to choke when I see deities reduced to archetypes. It's even worse when deities are mis-assigned to archetypes. Inanna and Ishtar are many powerful things, but they are not Mothers!

I quickly realized that I had a choice to make. I could allow myself to feel irritated and alienated by the (to my sensibilities) overly sweet and painfully non-grounded approach to women's spirituality, and spend four hours being uncomfortable, or I could let their language wash around me and focus on what I experienced that was of value, including the potential for fellowship with women who seem to be authentically striving for wholeness, growth, and connection. I chose the latter -- and let myself be at peace with the realization that if I join the group, my perspective will become part of the culture over time. It's not my job to "correct" their impressions of goddess lore.

Then there was the singing. I used to love singing in church, but I've had a mixed relationship to singing in these groups, usually because -- again -- the lyrics are often so foreign to my own language and sensibilities, and I get very uncomfortable with repetitions that go on and on and on. I was pleased that the drummer-leader explicitly said things like "four times through".

But for all my struggles yesterday, I was also experiencing an amazing sense of newness after emerging from the underworld, and one song in particular continued that sense of opening:

I am a woman of radiance, radiance
Buffalo Woman's kin
I am a woman of radiance, radiance
The double helix spin
Like a lightning arrow or a galloping mare
I'm drawn to the center of life
Shedding the old I don wings of magnificence
The eagle and I take flight

Typing the words now make me a bit twitchy. I don't feel any kinship to Buffalo Woman. I don't know Buffalo Woman. But the second-to-last line made up for everything else and drew me in.

So. . . one of the things I've always had challenges with is my either/or tendency (note Queen of Swords icon, which relates to this as well as to the rest of the post). That's an even bigger challenge when it comes to community. As I mature, I begin to understand more deeply that community is in part about compromise and accommodation. We have to find our personal boundaries around how far we can compromise and accommodate and remain true to ourselves, but it's unrealistic to expect or demand that everyone in a community match our exact beliefs, preferances, etc.

For now, I'm choosing to accommodate the culture of the group in the hope that I will find that I have more important things in common with these women and their individual journeys and the group's overall mission than I have frustration with their fuzzy goddess archetypes and "sweet women's bodies" language. And maybe, over time, if I become authentically part of the group and its culture, I can mix things up a bit.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
sharpchick
Oct. 18th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
I think the "take it slow and introduce other perspectives" approach is a good one, at least until you are able to get your bearings (and a better global view) about the group.

Do you know if they pass the leadership torch around? If they do, your next encounter could be with a woman who is firmly grounded, and further along in her own personal development.
qos
Oct. 18th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
My impression is that there is a leadership team each year.

And actually, the two women who are the primary leaders are mature, educated, sophisticated women with what seems to be a lot of wisdom. They just don't have particular sophistication in the area of Goddess theology.

What I probably should have made more clear in this post is that the actual *work* and discussion was more in-depth and challenging than the parts I did share. These women seem to have been doing a lot of meaningful work together, despite my low opinion of the matrix they've chosen.
heron61
Oct. 18th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
I've reached a point in my spiritual life where I start to choke when I see deities reduced to archetypes. It's even worse when deities are mis-assigned to archetypes. Inanna and Ishtar are many powerful things, but they are not Mothers!

Dear gods yes.

A combination of how heavily (and stereotypically) gendered most Wicca (and to a larger extent neopaganism) is and how careless/fluffy most of it is, is why I have little contact with the pagan community anymore.

I'm vastly happier in the otherkin community, because the fluffies are vividly obvious, and the people who aren't are doing fascinatingly idiosyncratic and powerful work.

Also (and perhaps most importantly) the tolerance for people who are differently gendered, multiple, or otherwise well outside mainstream boundaries is vastly higher - the fact that many neopagans react to magical and personal oddities outside of their experience or paradigm as either too weird or threatening makes me both sad & annoyed.
rravencroft
Oct. 19th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
"overly sweet and painfully non-grounded approach to women's spirituality"

GEorge Carlin identified the issue when he said that our society is "pussifing americans." (Present company forgive language)

Our ancesterial warrior nature is being pacified through social economics, propagated public education, hypnotic media, etc.etc.etc.

I grew up in a masonic tradition so I was not subjected to peace love turn the other cheek Christian morals. The modern day wicca movement, however fine for those treading the paths in the begining stages of human development and elphame consciousness/culture, began with these same Christian ideas and I have founf are throughly ignorant. I also am both sad & annoyed or should I say dissappointed and frothed that the ways of our ancesterial elders has been mostly ignored and watered down by those that have lead and propagated the wiccan and fluffy new ager movements.

However, I also agree with the tolerance seed thought the group aproach. :-)
qos
Oct. 19th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
I strongly object to the term "pussifying" -- and not simply because its coarseness has no place in this kind of conversation.

I strongly object to any and all terms which characterize women's bodies and beings as being "less", with being a failure -- especially when explicitly contrasted with warrior culture. I particularly object to women's genitalia being used in this way. Make any case you like criticizing the current state of our culture (or anything else), but do not use women, women's sexuality, or femininity to characterize what you think is wrong.

I love and support warrior culture, and have been on the record here on LiveJournal as doing so for years. However I do not think that warrior culture is somehow a gold standard for culture in general. Dynamic balance is needed between multiple aspects of our beings: the spiritual, the intellectual, the artistic, the domestic, as well as the warrior. And none of these -- despite traditional cultural patterns -- are the natural province of one gender or another.

Just because I found this manifestation of women's culture to be be too sweet for my personal taste and lacking thealogical (sic) rigor does not mean I think it lacks that rigor due to the some inherent quality of femininity. As far as I can tell, given the other qualities of the leadership team, this is due to lack of education, not spiritual softness.

That said, I agree that there is an unfortunate tendency in New Age and Wiccan groups to be so focused on sweetness and love that they are unable to grapple with the hard questions and issues of life. They lack intellectual rigor and a clear-eyed understanding of the Shadow. They are inadequate for dealing with honest anger, tragedy, and the other raw emotions too often labeled as "negative."

This group, as far as I can tell, does have that capacity, but it expresses itself through other modalities than their women's spirituality tools.
oakmouse
Oct. 19th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
You go. *cheers*

Also, OP knowledge of Masonic teachings EPIC FAIL.
rravencroft
Oct. 19th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
The masonic teachings where not the Epic Fail for the true mason will study the Ancient Mysteries as this is the bases of the masonic path, nor will they except any religon at face value.

However the public front of the group may appear as a fail for they have become just a good Ol boy and girl faternity/sorority for gathering on the weekends for beer and chicken after Church LMAO. Most masons today never ever surpase the blue lodge or 3rd degree mason nor will ever study or have the intellect to understand the Ancient teachings.

Most turn to the lesser more publicly minded paths like the Shriners. Very few follow forward to the 32 degree or "Prince/Knight of the Royal Secret" of the Scottish Rite (as myself) or become voted in on the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree (as my grandfather) and lesser still gravite toward the 32 degree of the Knights Templar (my father).

However again it is like one of my ol yogi teachers said to me once. "It is good to be born a Christian but Bad to die as one." Most studies are good to be born into, gives you knowledge of such... yet terrible to continue into.

I became apart of them only to fullfill my ancesteial obligtions as that my family has been within the Masonic Group for many generations. I study the Ancient myteries to a level that I do not believe my family has in a very long time and have gravited toward other mystery schools that are beyond the Lodge.
oakmouse
Oct. 19th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
a) You missed my point.

b) Thanks, but I don't need to have Masonry mansplained to me; I know quite a bit about it, including a great deal of its teachings and moral code.
rravencroft
Oct. 21st, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
I appologize, for my intentions where not meant to be patronizing.
oakmouse
Oct. 21st, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
You don't seem to have realized that in boasting of your Masonic standing and background, you may be speaking to, or in front of, someone who has enough knowledge to pick apart the gaping holes in your claims. You've made some fatal errors which anyone with actual knowledge of Masonry can readily spot.

Also, do not email me through Livejournal again.
rravencroft
Oct. 19th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
Complete agreement. Your response was expected. I was only quoting George. I wished he had used other words. However, it was part of his nature as it is a good example again of how American society has become and how the disease has spread.

The femininity has been reduced to second rate and weak. This I do not agree with, as with the true woman who was the muse of my story. A very beautiful woman, yet extremely powerful and strong who was a Commandeur and great leader that eroused true loyality amoungst those that knew and followed her. One of my favorite animal totems/spirits is the yellow jacket/wasp. (Female warriors) Also being that my family ancestory is pict and scythian whom had the upmost respect for the femininity as well as rode to war with amoung female warriors. :=)

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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